Nov 30 2015

Top 4 Skiing Zones in Telluride

Let the skiing begin! Telluride opened Thanksgiving day, and our last storm dumped 26” of fresh snow! The snowmaking crew has been working hard, and Ski Patrol has been checking and opening more terrain. All of this excitement has made me think of the way I ski Telluride. I like to think of the resort in terms of zones of difficulty, in much the same way that runs are given ratings with a green square (beginner terrain), a blue circle (intermediate), or a black diamond (expert). These zones are useful when trying to avoid wasting time getting from place to place. Before you formulate a plan, assess the current conditions, your goals, and your ability.

I took a 2013 trail map (courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort) and drew my zones right on top. Let’s start in Mountain Village and work uphill.

updated map tellurideGreen Zone

The green zone includes lift 1 (Chondola), Lift 10 (Sunshine Express), and Lift 11 (Ute Park). This terrain is really fun to ski with beginners. I’ve taken kids from the Adaptive program here when they were just beginning to ski, and it was great. Mellow slopes and wide runs are characteristic of the terrain here, but there are a few more challenging sections where you can pick up some speed, if that’s what you’re after. If you have young skiers, laps on the Chondola are a nice quick option, close to the warmth of the village. Lift 10 will provide excellent longer runs. I typically don’t ski here myself unless there isn’t new snow around, and conditions are cold and fast. In that case, there can be some fun jibbing opportunities, and a few interesting “secret” tree runs.

Blue Zone

The blue zone includes lifts 4 (Village), 5 (Polar Queen), and 12 (Prospect). Most of the terrain from these lifts is intermediate, and is steep enough to be excellent on a good powder day. Laps on lift 4 will be fun on a weekday, but during weekends I would head over to lifts 5 or 12. The three lifts should really be distinct zones, because it is difficult to move between them. Pick one and stay for several laps.

Black Zone

The black zone is huge. It covers much of the mountain, and is probably the main reason why Telluride Ski Resort is so wonderful. It includes lifts 7 (Coonskin), 8 (Oak St.), 9 (Plunge), 6 (Apex), 14 (Gold Hill), and 15 (Revelation). If snow has fallen, I usually assess the wind loading, follow the sun, and pick an area within this zone. For the steepest skiing I prefer the Telluride town side, and like to do laps on lift 9. You can ski lifts 14 and 15 as though they were on the same side of the mountain, although 15 takes you back into Revelation Bowl. Lift 6 holds wonderful tree skiing, and some of the lines between 6 and 15 are very intense.

Red Zone

The red zone includes all of the in-bounds terrain that you can hike to. I’d recommend wearing an avalanche beacon and carrying a shovel and probe in most of this zone. You should know how to use them too—go ahead and practice in Beacon Basin, a little spot with switchable buried transceivers and target pads on the way from lift 5 to 12. Check with a lift operator or ski patrol, they’ll let you know where to practice (and which areas are open). You can access the incredible hike-to terrain from 3 places. From the top of lift 15 you can head out to the Gold Hill Chutes. These are extremely steep and rarely open. When they are the hike and subsequent ride can be very memorable. From the top of lift 12 you can access the Black Iron Bowl and Palmyra Peak. The first run is just a few feet from the lift, so don’t miss the opportunity to get fresh tracks for a minimal hiking investment. The hike to the peak is much longer, but the payoff is an incredible. The third area is Bald Mountain, which can be accessed by a trailhead at its base off of the Galloping Goose trail.

Wherever you decide to ski, go with a partner and a plan, and let someone know where you will be.

Brad Wilson is a technical writer. This year he celebrates his 21st season on a snowboard by skipping work more frequently on snow days.

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